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Brand Lessons from RAND’s “Enlisting Madison Avenue”

In a fascinating 2007 study, “Enlisting Madison Avenue,” RAND analyzed (pp. 57-129) how the United States military could better influence indigenous populations in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. I thought readers of this blog might find it interesting to read some of the key ideas from that report and how they could be applied to any environment. (This is a sort of circling back from business, to government, to all settings.)

  1. Know your target audience through segmentation and targeting. This means using research to identify key stakeholders (by demographic [age/gender/income/occupation], psychographic [social class, lifestyle, personality], geographic location, behaviors) and crafting communication strategies that are relevant to each.
  2. Apply business positioning strategies. This means coming up with a core message—a message to emphasize—not emphasizing everything. Start with opinions or concepts held by the customer and work those into messages that come from you.
  3. Understand key branding concepts. This means understanding and leveraging the reality that people have certain associations with our organization and creating a unique and clear identity for them to catch on to. “Align every brand-consumer touchpoint to convey a single, clear, and uniform message.” You also need to continually update your brand to keep up with the times.
  4. Synchronize the brand. This means focusing your “brand architecture” so that you either apply the corporate name to all of your divisions, programs, and products, or reserve the name for distinctive use and promote various subbrands without the corporate brand name.
  5. Synchronize the workforce. This means making sure that employees properly convey the image you want to represent to the public. This also means answering complaints quickly, inventorying all brand-customer touchpoints and determining how people should conduct themselves in all interactions with the public, and educating the organization about your brand and how to manage and maintain it.
  6. Promote customer satisfaction. Make promises that you can keep. “When promises go unfulfilled, customers become disappointed and their likelihood of doing business with that company decreases.” Along these lines you should empower customer service representatives to solve problems and should make it possible for people to route their calls to the same representative who first took their call.
  7. Listen to the customer. “The most successful business endeavors are those that are premised on meeting customer needs.” You also need to monitor outcomes – stay in touch with customers “so that problems can be fixed before they alienate the customer base.” You should survey the public regularly, monitor complaint lines, etc.
  8. Harness the power of influencers. Reach out to “those in society whose position affords them a megaphone and the respect and admiration of key population segments.” These include the media, writers, bloggers, academics, celebrities, etc. This also means reaching out to customers who are very positive about their experiences with the organization and inviting them to share their experiences with others – perhaps via a blog. In any case you need to establish outreach to the community through regular interactions with people who are “customers” and make them feel like they are part of the organization’s “family.” You could also allow employees to blog online, within limits, about their insights and experiences.
  9. Use the principles of social marketing to achieve success. Social marketing “applies well-grounded commercial marketing techniques to influence noncommercial behavioral change in a target audience.” These techniques include knowing your desired behavior change; focusing on population segments most likely to respond to a behavioral campaign; determining concrete goals and objectives; knowing your market and the competition, if any; designing a product “just for them” (the audience); making prices “as low as they go”; placing the product effectively (location, location, location); creating motivating messages that stand out; getting the message out; and monitoring and evaluating campaign success.

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